http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgActors portray a scene during the Trail of Tears Drama, which took place at the Cherokee Heritage Center’s amphitheater from 1969 to 2005 in Park Hill, Okla. The play depicted the struggles of Cherokee people on the Trail of Tears and when they arrived in Indian Territory. COURTESY PHOTO
Actors portray a scene during the Trail of Tears Drama, which took place at the Cherokee Heritage Center’s amphitheater from 1969 to 2005 in Park Hill, Okla. The play depicted the struggles of Cherokee people on the Trail of Tears and when they arrived in Indian Territory. COURTESY PHOTO

Cherokee amphitheater once Trail of Tears Drama site

Dancers hold aloft a Phoenix Dancer during the Trail of Tears Drama, which opened in 1969 at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Okla. The summer drama opened with about 75 actors, techs and support staff and was written by Kermit Hunter. COURTESY PHOTO The Trail of Tears Drama opened in 1969 in an amphitheater built especially for it at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Okla. The stage had nine places for scenes and there were revolving stages on each side of the main stage. COURTESY PHOTO The Trail of Tears Drama opened in 1969 in an amphitheater built especially for it at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Okla. The stage had nine places for scenes and there were revolving stages on each side of the main stage. The play depicted the struggles of Cherokee people on the Trail of Tears and when they arrived in Indian Territory. COURTESY PHOTO An audience attending the Trail of Tears Drama in 1989 listens to pre-show entertainment. The drama opened in 1969 in an amphitheater built especially for it at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Okla. COURTESY PHOTO
Dancers hold aloft a Phoenix Dancer during the Trail of Tears Drama, which opened in 1969 at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Okla. The summer drama opened with about 75 actors, techs and support staff and was written by Kermit Hunter. COURTESY PHOTO
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
05/29/2013 07:58 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Tonia Hogner Weavel is an alumna of the original Trail of Tears Drama that began playing in June 1969 in an amphitheater built especially for it at the Cherokee Heritage Center. She was the principal dancer for it in 1974 and 1976.

Weavel, who is now the CHC’s education director, said the drama opened with about 75 actors, techs and support staff. It was written by Kermit Hunter and continued the dramatic story performed by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians titled “Unto These Hills,” which is still shows today in Cherokee, N.C.

“It (“Unto These Hills”) was the first half of the removal, and ours was after we (Cherokee people) reached Indian Territory,” she said.

In an unusual twist, Weavel said the amphitheater where the drama was performed until 2005 was designed to fit the script. “Usually the theater is built and you just work with what you have but in this instance the theater was designed to fit the show.”

Charles “Chief” Boyd, an architecture graduate at the time, designed the amphitheater after traveling to New York City to research ideas with CHC co-founder Col. Martin Hagerstrand. The theater was designed using a “thrust stage or extended into the audience,” was steeply graded and fan-shaped.

“It was built to form an intimacy with the play. Even though it was a great outdoor amphitheater, it was designed to be as intimate to the stage as possible,” Weavel said.

The audience was never more than 75 feet from the stage, she added. And because of the steepness of the amphitheater, an audience of 1,800 could look down on the stage and actors.

“There was not a bad seat in the house, literally. For the most part you didn’t miss anything in any seat in the house,” Weavel said.

At the back of the main stage was a “mountaintop” with natural foliage. Behind the stage were dressing rooms. The stage had nine places for scenes and there were revolving stages on each side of the main stage.

Another impressive feature was it was the first outdoor theater with an air-cooled stage. On the stage sides were air-conditioning vents that blew across the stage, which Weavel said was necessary on hot nights.

Also, the stage’s design and theater served another purpose. Weavel said in the old days of the theater, actors did not use amplification devices to project their voices and needed “theater voices” that could project to the back of the stage.

“So we didn’t use any kind of microphone system because the theater was built in such a way as to carry the sound up,” she said. “We did have music and we did have narration, so there was a sound system.”

Later, actors used wireless microphones when they became more available and easier to use.

“The theater was a grand place. It was at a time when the technology we have today was not in place, so our entertainment was self-imposed. Like the drive-in theater that has gone by the wayside, amphitheaters have done the same. It’s much easier to sit in your air-conditioned home and dial up a movie on Netflix...than it is to take the effort to get in your car and go sit out in maybe 95-degree heat and make the effort to go see a show,” Weavel said.

She said ultimately that is why the drama stopped. Dwindling attendance along with the cost of putting on the drama made it impossible to continue.

“One thing that has not died is the people’s memories and their experiences with the Trail of Tears Drama from 1969 until it closed in 2005. It set wonderful memories and it allowed people to learn more about Cherokee culture,” she said.

will-chavez@cherokee.org


918-207-3961

About the Author
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M.

He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life.
He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association.

Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years. He was named interim executive editor on Dec. 8, 2015, by the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board.
WILL-CHAVEZ@cherokee.org • 918-207-3961
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M. He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life. He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association. Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years. He was named interim executive editor on Dec. 8, 2015, by the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board.

Culture

BY STAFF REPORTS
10/19/2017 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Thanks in part from an Oklahoma Arts Council grant, the Northeastern State University Center for Tribal Studies will host the Indigenous Arts Education Series in November for American Indian Heritage Month. The series will include the following: <strong>Nov. 2</strong> Marcus Harjo (Pawnee/Seminole) will present “Creative Writing and Music Production Workshop” from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the University Center Redbud Room. Harjo uses writing, music production and live performances to promote his passions of youth outreach, cultural awareness and promoting healthy, drug-free lifestyles, specifically among American Indian populations. His workshop will focus on teaching participants how to use writing and music composition skills to enhance the delivery of their message. His workshop will conclude with a live performance. <strong>Nov. 8</strong> Sandy Fife Wilson (Muscogee Creek) will present “Shell Carving Demonstration” from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the University Center Redbud Room. Wilson is an experienced artist having learned her art techniques through both formal education and traditional means as she comes from a long line of family artists. Wilson specializes in Southeastern design shell carvings, finger-woven items and Creek basketry. She will host a demonstration that will educate the audience on this traditional form of art and lead participants through the process using a direct, hands-on approach to instruction. <strong>Nov. 14</strong> Yatika Starr Fields (Muscogee Creek/Osage/Cherokee) will present “Becoming a Mural Artist” from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the University Center Redbud Room. Fields’ presentation will highlight his experience and work as a mural artist and provide attendees with some insight into the highly specialized field of mural art. This event will include a live art demonstration. The Oklahoma Arts Council is the official state agency for the support and development of the arts. The agency’s mission is to lead in the advancement of Oklahoma’s thriving arts industry. Additional information is available at <a href="http://www.arts.ok.gov" target="_blank">arts.ok.gov</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
10/18/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee National Youth Choir’s album “Celebration” was named Best Pop Recording during the 17th annual Native American Music Awards on Oct. 14. This year’s award marks the fifth honor – referred to as a NAMMY – the Cherokee National Youth Choir has garnered since the choir’s inception in 2000. The youth choir was also nominated for Group of the Year and Record of the Year for its latest album. “We were so excited to win Best Pop Recording at the Native American Music Awards,” Mary Kay Henderson, Cherokee National Youth Choir director, said. “Our CD, ‘Celebration,’ is a collection of Motown music and has been a fun way to encourage our young people to learn our language. Language teacher and choir coordinator Kathy Sierra and I would like to thank everyone who took the time to vote for the Cherokee National Youth Choir.” The “Celebration” record is a combination of the 2017 Cherokee National Youth Choir and its soloists and members of the 2006 youth choir. Songs on the “Celebration” album include “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Celebration,” “Lean On Me,” “My Girl,” “Respect,” “My Guy,” “Stand By Me” and “We Are Family.” Sierra translated the lyrics from English to Cherokee for the recording. The Cherokee National Youth Choir has performed dozens of songs in the Cherokee language in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and at venues across the country, including the Oklahoma State Capitol. The choir also previously performed with such legendary artists as Foreigner, Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, Roy Clark, Kenny Rogers and the Oak Ridge Boys. The choir is made up of 30 to 40 young Cherokees from northeastern Oklahoma communities. Members are middle and high school youth in grades 6-12. The students compete in auditions every year for inclusion in the group. “The Cherokee Nation Youth Choir has proven time and time again to be excellent cultural ambassadors for our tribal government and our people,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “We are so proud of them for bringing home another NAMMY honor. The accomplishments of these young people should be celebrated, as they are learning and utilizing the Cherokee language. Additionally, they have volunteered their time and talents to be part of the youth choir, which is an opportunity to grow their leadership skills. Congratulations to everyone involved with this wonderful achievement.” The choir’s newest album, “Just Jesus,” as well as past albums will be available for purchase later this year at Cherokee Nation Gift Shop locations and online at <a href="http://www.CherokeeGiftShop.com" target="_blank">www.CherokeeGiftShop.com</a>.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
10/17/2017 04:00 PM
CATOOSA, Okla. – Navajo artist Ric Charlie won Best of Show for his jewelry piece “Navajo Bling” at the 12th annual Cherokee Art Market held Oct. 14-15 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. Artists from throughout the nation competed in eight categories: painting, sculpture, beadwork/quillwork, basketry, pottery, textiles, jewelry and diverse art forms. Sixty artists received awards, and 150 artists displayed and sold their art during the event. Charlie, 59, of Tuba City, Arizona, makes jewelry, paints and sculpts. “I can’t make a living with those (painting and sculpting), but I do it for therapy,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed all kinds of art, ever since I was a kid.” He said his winning necklace was inspired by “a nice summer day” when he was out of school and had time on his hands. “Navajo Bling” is a 14-karat gold jewelry set featuring more than 1,700 individually set diamonds and is valued at $75,000. “As a kid I was always involved in creating things because on the reservation you had to. I learned a lot from my grandfather because he was the creator of many things,” he said. “The work that I do now is something I only dreamed about doing. When I started making jewelry, I said, ‘I really want to get into gold. I really want to get into diamonds. I really want to do this type of work.’ It’s just a dream come true.” Charlie said he “dreamed big” as a child. “If you don’t dream big, it won’t happen.” He’s participated in other art shows such as the Santa Fe Indian Market, but this was the first time he entered the Cherokee Art Market. He said he plans to enter his work again. “I find it (Cherokee Art Market) really personal. People here are very, very friendly and welcoming, too. The level of artwork here is incredible,” Charlie said. Cherokee artist Bryan Waytula won Best of Class for Class 1: Painting, Drawing, Graphics & Photography for his painting titled “We Stand as One.” Cherokee sculpture Bill Glass Jr. won Best of Class for Class 2: Sculpture for his piece “The Discussion Revolves.” In the Class 5: Pottery Division, Cherokee artist Troy Jackson won Best of Class for his work “Bird Effigy.” Cherokee Art Market Manager Deborah Fritts said one artist came from Alaska and another came from Maine and other artists from in between. She said the show has come a long way from its first year in 2005 when it was held under tents in the casino parking lot. It has been held inside the casino since 2009. Fritts attends other art shows to “scope” out artists and to network. She also meets with other art market coordinators. “A lot of the people that win at the other shows, like at Santa Fe (Indian Market) or the Heard Museum (Phoenix), they come to our show,” she said. Dallin Maybee is chief operating officer for the Southwest Association for Indian Arts, the nonprofit association that produces the Santa Fe Indian Market. He said the Cherokee Art Market has its own “personality,” and he wouldn’t compare it to Santa Fe but “it’s a great show.” “This brings an incredible competitive field of artists. It’s a nice show. It’s intimate. You see a lot of your friends here, and the prize money helps,” Maybee said. “I come to this show every time that I can just because it’s a good time.” For a full list of winners, visit <a href="http://www.Cherokeeartmarket.com" target="_blank">Cherokeeartmarket.com</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
10/17/2017 12:00 PM
CARTERSVILLE, Ga. – The next meeting of the Georgia Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association will begin at 10:30 a.m. on Nov. 11 at the Bartow History Museum. The speaker will be Jim Langford, and his topic will be “Impact of de Soto on Southeastern Native Americans.” Langford is a member and former officer of the Society of Georgia Archaeology and has been doing research on the Native American presence in the Southeast for many years. The Bartow History Museum is located at 4 E. Church St. Its phone number is 770-382-3818. The TOTA was created to support the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail established by an act of Congress in 1987. It is dedicated to identifying and preserving sites associated with the removal of Native Americans from the southeastern United States. The Georgia TOTA chapter is one of nine state chapters representing the nine states that the Cherokee and other tribes traveled through on their way to Indian Territory, now Oklahoma. GATOTA meetings are free and open to the public. People need not have Native American ancestry to attend GATOTA meetings, just an interest and desire to learn more about this tragic period in this country’s history. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.nationaltota.com" target="_blank">www.nationaltota.com</a> or <a href="http://www.gatrailoftears.org" target="_blank">www.gatrailoftears.org</a>. For more information about the November meeting, email Tony Harris at <a href="mailto: harris7627@bellsouth.net">harris7627@bellsouth.net</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
10/12/2017 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Families looking for a fun, educational adventure for their children during fall break should plan to visit the Cherokee Nation museums on Oct. 20.  Museums participating are the Cherokee National Prison Museum, the Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum and the John Ross Museum. Enjoy free admission and special activities at all three locations. There will be paper bandolier bags at the Cherokee National Prison Museum, Cherokee syllabary lessons at the Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum and make your own clay beads at the John Ross Museum. The educational activities occur from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Cherokee National Prison was the only penitentiary building in Indian Territory from 1875 to 1901. It housed sentenced and accused prisoners from throughout the territory. The interpretive site and museum give visitors an idea about how law and order operated in Indian Territory. The site features a working blacksmith area and reconstructed gallows, exhibits about famous prisoners and daring escapes, local outlaws and Cherokee patriots, jail cells and much more. Built in 1844, the Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum is Oklahoma’s oldest public building. The 1,950-square-foot museum features exhibits on the Cherokee National Judicial System; the Cherokee Advocate and Cherokee Phoenix newspapers; and the Cherokee language, with various historical items, including photos, stories, objects and furniture. Touch screen kiosks offer visitors documentary-style learning on various legal topics as well as teaching conversational Cherokee. The John Ross Museum highlights the life of John Ross, principal chief of the CN for more than 38 years, and houses exhibits and interactive displays on the Trail of Tears, Civil War, Cherokee Golden Age and Cherokee Nation’s passion for the education of its people. The museum is housed in an old, rural school building known as School No. 51 and sits at the foot of Ross Cemetery, where John Ross and other notable Cherokee citizens are buried. The Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum is located at 122 E. Keetoowah St., and the Cherokee National Prison Museum is at 124 E. Choctaw St., both in Tahlequah. The John Ross Museum is located at 22366 S. 530 Road in Park Hill. For more information, call 1-877-779-6977 or visit <a href="http://www.visitcherokeenation.com" target="_blank">www.visitcherokeenation.com</a>.
BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
10/09/2017 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – With the hope of teaching more Cherokees soapstone carving, United Keetoowah Band citizen Matt Girty is spreading his knowledge of the ancient art by offering classes in Tahlequah to people willing to learn. His latest class was on Sept. 16 at the UKB Culture Center, where students gained insight and hands-on experience with soapstone carving. “My goal was to get more carvers out here because I see a lot of opportunity. So what many people are going to have to do around here is look within their self, look (at) who they are, and most of us out here are Cherokees,” he said. “If I can do it, there’s more out here that can do it. Even if they don’t get seen...then they’ve got a piece of their culture. They can show whoever they want to…so that way it’ll stay alive here within us and not die like it almost has been.” Girty said he starts his students with creating a turtle. “This right here is basically to get them to figure out their shapes and to get their hands on soapstone,” he said. “Figure out how to work it, how it feels on your hands.” As for tools, Girty uses X-Acto knives, files and hacksaws to shape his works. “I wanted these guys to get the feel of the grass roots of it because that’s how our people did it, not with power tools,” he said. “I want them to get the slow process of it, to get the blocking out and taking off a lot of the object to get to your main goal of making your object piece. So I want them to get used to doing it by hand first before they jump on any power tools.” By creating stone carved art, Girty said he feels he’s helping keep the art form alive. “It’s better for me to pass this on because this is all I know how to do that could better our people,” he said. “In my opinion, we should all be able to create beauty and make people smile in everything we do…to keep us going as Cherokee people.” UKB citizen Ernestine Berry said she is no stranger to the art world, so when she heard about Girty’s class she decided to take it. “I’m always interested in anything having to do with art,” she said. “I haven’t done stone carving before. I’ve done a little bit of woodcarving. I also have a degree in art for the University in Tulsa. So, I’ve done a little bit of artwork.” She said Girty is a “good” teacher and thinks what he does, by teaching and preserving the culture, is important. “I think anything to do with our tradition and our heritage is important to our people,” she said. “It helps us to know who we are. It helps to know where we came from, and it helps us to understand the ancestors and what they went through and the kind of lives that they lived.” Berry said she encourages anyone interested in preserving Cherokee culture to take Girty’s class. “It’s an enjoyable thing as well as a learning experience,” she said. “I just encourage anybody who wants to come, to come, because we’re not exclusive here. We accept everybody, Keetoowahs, Cherokee Nation, non-Indians, other tribes, anybody that wants to come.” So far Girty has taught two classes and hopes to continue teaching, while building upon each one to help students create more advanced pieces. “I have an idea for you to carve bears. The next class I want you to bring whatever you want to carve and then we can do it,” he said. “Next thing, I have a vision of our old pipe effigies that we used to make. That will be an advanced class because that’s what I’m (personally) doing now is recreating these ceremonial objects.” Girty hopes to have his next class in either late November or early December. “I’m here for instruction. Everything I know, it’s no secret,” he said. “I want to show you everything I know, then in turn you go show who you know. Come back and show me what you did, and hopefully you become to be a lot better than I am.” For more information, find him under Matt Girty on Facebook.